Gang Green – “Can’t Live Without It” (1990)

I have a strange fascination with Gang Green. They’re recording hey-day was the mid to late 1980s, and I have no recollection of them from that time, but I wasn’t into punk/hardcore, so that’s excusable. I seem to have always know of them, though, and I finally got around to checking them out back in 2013 with a copy of Another Wasted Night. Since then I’ve picked up three more of their records, most recently the 1990 live album Can’t Live Without It. (♠)

Unlike a lot of hardcore bands that are straight edge or sing about political, social, or animal rights issues, Gang Green are pretty much about beer and skating. This live album (recorded in London) opens with “Let’s Drink Some Beer,” which is followed by “Bartender” (the B side includes “Alcohol”), so they’re very transparent. To me their style of hardcore is perhaps closer to metal, more specifically thrash, which probably explains why I’m drawn to them.

The recording quality on Can’t Live Without It is very good for a live punk record. The band blazes through the 15 songs, moving swiftly from one to the next and leaving me almost out of breath and exhausted just listening to them. One of my favorite moments is the band’s classic 1980s cover of ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry,” which also appeared on Another Wasted Night. There’s just something about punk covers of pop songs that I find enjoyable – and judging by the relative success of Me First & The Gimmie Gimmies, I’m not the only one.

Another winner from Gang Green.

 

(♠) Given that this is Gang Green, I can only assume that the “It” referred to in the title is beer, and more specifically Budweiser.

Gang Green – “I81B4U”

This is my third stop as I work my way through the Gang Green catalog, falling in between my two prior reviews of Another Wasted Night (1986) and Older… Budweiser (1989) both in terms of release date and style. The five-song EP came out in 1988 and marks a transitional period between the punk of the earlier album and the more metal sound of the later – though it’s definitely past the half way point of Gang Green’s change from punk to metal, as can be heard through what sounds like fast double bass drums on “Rent” and the shredding guitar opening to “Put Her On Top.”

While the musical style may have changed, the types of things Gang Green sing about have not, as proven by such song titles as “Bartender,” “Put Her On Top,” and the ever classy “Cum In U.” This is nothing fancy. It’s in-the-gutter rock ‘n’ roll about beer and chicks, nothing more, nothing less. Making a seemingly mandatory appearance on the jacket is the King of Beers, Budweiser, with a pouring can gracing the jacket front and the two of the boys holding cans in the band picture on the reverse. You can’t have Gang Green without Budweiser. Accept no substitute. And Ironically on the reverse, way down in the corner in tiny font, is a little “Stop The Madness” anti-drug message by the band’s label. Um, someone may want to tell Roadracer Records that alcohol is a drug too. I’m just sayin’.

If you like your stripped down metal with some beer and a touch of misogyny, Gang Green brings it. I find them fun to listen to in small doses, so an EP like I81B4U is just about right. With that in mind, I think I need to make a trip to the fridge and maybe flip the record on my way back…

Gang Green – “Older… Budweiser”

I found this copy of Gang Green’s Older… Budweiser while flipping through the punk stuff at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records. Odd that I ended up getting a Dutch pressing of an American punk band at a store in Iceland, but you know, records travel. And now this copy is in the US of A. It also got me thinking about “cutouts,” since this copy has the tell-tale hole punched in the top right corner and even a kind of cool Icelandic sticker that indicates that no refunds are allowed for this record. So here’s a record that likely achieved cutout status because it didn’t sell well enough… and yet close to 25 years later I was stoked to find it and probably paid more for it than the person who originally bought it did. But whatever.

I previously wrote about Gang Green’s Another Wasted Night, so I don’t really have anything new to say about the band. Released in 1989, three years after their debut, Older… Budweiser is a bit more heavy metal than punk to me, but still pretty damn cool. It’s a record that probably never quite found it’s place in 1989… sort of a transitional period when a lot of tired bands were still topping the charts, Metallica was putting out music videos, and grunge hadn’t yet changed the scene. I would have totally rocked out to this record had I ever even heard of Gang Green, though, I can assure you. “Church of Fun” is a great rocker, and “Bedroom of Doom” is a hilarious song about bedroom mishaps involving STDs and inadvertent drunken liaisons with someone who turned out to be another dude.

Nothing fancy here, just some metal songs about drinking and nonsense. Just the way I like ’em.

Gang Green – “Another Wasted Night”

Another Wasted Night, the 1986 LP by the East Coast punk outfit Gang Green, is one of the early hardcore punk classics. I was pretty excited when I ran across this at my local used record store Vortex last weekend as part of a smile pile of great punk titles, and while the vinyl looked well loved and heavily played, it sounded solid and the pops and clicks seemed to add a little to the old school DIY feel. And at $2.50 it was a bargain.

Gang Green went through a number of iterations over the years, and Another Wasted Night originated from the band’s first reincarnation following its 1984 breakup. Vocalist Chris Doherty is the one common element over the years, and the roster of former members is long enough that the band can be viewed as whoever Doherty happens to be playing and drinking with at the time. But with his singing talent you can see why the band has hung around the punk scene so long and so influentially (“Last Chance” sounds so much like a Mudhoney song it’s scary).

Another Wasted Night is certainly fast, though not nearly so fast as what hardcore later became – and that middle ground is a perfect sweet spot of speed, sneering, and Budweiser (a picture of a Budweiser semi trailer is on the jacket reverse along side the photos of the band members). This is a band, after all, that brings you tracks like “Another Wasted Night” and the simply titled boozing anthem “Alcohol.” They sing about drinking and skateboarding and drinking and anger and drinking, but still found the space on the album to also do a brilliant cover of ‘Til Tuesday’s new wave pop hit “Voices Carry,” made all the more impressive by the fact they didn’t play it at a fast hardcore pace but instead kept it relatively close to its original length. It’s a great version of the song done without synthesizers, giving it a march darker and my anguished feel.

You’ve got the beer,
We’ve got the time,
You’ve got the coke,
Gimmie a lime.

No doubt about it,
Can’t live without it.
No doubt about it,
Can’t live without it.
Alcohol!
— “Alcohol”

At eight songs and just over 16 minutes, this is pure punk rock at its finest. CD and import vinyl versions of Another Wasted Night contain various extra tracks, though the original label Taang! Records continues to limit its vinyl re-releases to the original eight, which is fitting. I know it’s a short record, but it’s supposed to be. It’s hardcore. It’s punk rock. These aren’t ballads and there aren’t any self-indulgent solos. It’s about as close to pure as you can get.